Project’s failure cemented


We could barely believe our eyes. Walking to work on a bright fall day, the sound of a jackhammer filled the morning air, while a large excavator near Five Corners picked up huge chunks of concrete — freshly poured just days earlier — and dropped them into a waiting dump truck.

Is this for real?

Closer to our office on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, there was another piece of machinery. This one was equipped with a jackhammer, and it was piercing through the concrete, sending little fragments of cement to the sides as it opened up gaping holes in the concrete that was poured and painstakingly smoothed out days earlier.

“What happened?” we asked one of the workers, thinking there must have been some flaw found in the materials.

He responded saying that the town didn’t like the smooth concrete. That it wanted the sidewalks to be an exposed aggregate surface.

Is this for real? 

Sure enough, we reached out to Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande, who informed us that indeed, the town had requested and been given contractual assurances by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) that they would use the town’s preferred sidewalk surface. Later, he had DPW director Kirk Metell share that preferred recipe with us, which includes 1½-inch native stone, Goodale’s native sand, and ⅜-inch native stone, among other ingredients. 

Is this for real?

It would be funny if it weren’t so wasteful, frustrating, and damaging to the environment.

A perfectly good sidewalk has been scooped up and hauled away. Hopefully it can be repurposed. 

But what we can’t get back is the carbon emissions caused by all of the machinery that first put down the original — unacceptable to the town — sidewalk. And then the same machinery that scooped it up and hauled it away, creating even more emissions.

According to an article by the BBC, “cement is the source of about 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to think tank Chatham House. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world — behind China and the U.S. It contributes more [carbon dioxide] than aviation fuel (2.5 percent) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12 percent),” the article reported.

This on an Island that is facing real problems from the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

Beyond that, this project is a major inconvenience to the businesses and property owners along Beach Road — not to mention the many motorists who have been delayed by the project. We understand that there will be inconveniences with any roadwork, but adding insult to injury by calling for a do-over adds to that burden and frustration. This project affects nearly everyone on the Island, because it is one of the main routes to access the Vineyard Haven terminal of the Steamship Authority, and it’s also one of the ways to access the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. 

Adding any amount of the time to the project affects everyone and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

When we first asked about the cost of the change of removing the finished sidewalk, MassDOT spokeswoman Judith Reardon Riley told us it would be just $4,000. Finding that a laughable amount given the length of sidewalk in question, we wrote back to her. She admitted a mistake, and said it was more along the lines of $50,000, but it would be covered by the contractor.

Let’s face it, no contractor ever actually eats a mistake like that. We’re guessing there are contingencies built into the contract amount, or insurance on the project will cover it. We won’t ever notice it, but ultimately it’s mistakes like these that make public projects even more expensive to do.

The mistake was obviously made by the contractor, but then was compounded by the town forcing the do-over. The town also had an obligation to inspect the project sooner, and simply failed to do its job.

A couple of weeks ago, after a nor’easter ripped through the Island and a follow-up storm showed just how poor the drainage system is in and around Five Corners, we wondered if it was too early to call this project a failure. At the time, we said it was on the path.

Now with that path ripped up and tossed away — a financial and environmental waste — we’ve seen enough. We’re convinced the Beach Road project is a failure.


  1. Maybe the Times can find a nice rental on higher ground. It really is a safety issue for employees. I think you should try and provide a safe work environment. Please move to higher ground. Please explain how the town of Tisbury must inspect the work of contractors paid for under a state contract? They are not the overnight body. Too bad most of your readers buy this falsehood.

  2. The road in front of the Times continues to flood and with the deluges we’ve been getting this fall, why hasn’t DOT repaired the drainage pipes that run from Beach Road to the wetlands adjacent to Lagoon Pond Road BEFORE doing all of the roadwork itself!??? This seems like a band-aid makeover project all around….. that crazy unarmored beach behind the Shell station that is washing away with pieces of granite installed as a lame effort at trying to hold the road edge in place ! What engineer would put his stamp on that with the predicted rise in sea level of inches (let alone storm surge) and that’s just by 2040?! This was just not planned well at all. All roadside owners should have been part of a “climate action plan” to address the issues of the entire area before spending millions as a temporary makeover….

  3. In driving through Vineyard Haven this week, I noticed more than one kind of paving surface on sidewalks – on the same street, and in at least one instance on the same block. It’s not as though there is a signature surface anyway.

  4. …and the power poles are still in the middle of the sidewalk restricting handicap access for safe transit. What a waste…

  5. And the sidewalks that were installed some years ago are often covered in weeds, or are almost impassable because of hedge encroachment. Will the Beach Rd sidewalks be maintained?

  6. Anthony– it seems that they can’t take the old ones out, because it appears , from the lean they have, that the new ones will probably fall over this winter.

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